By AMY PHILLIPS
Many people in the Nikkei community may have heard that May was National Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, but another designation is often overlooked. The month of May is also Older Americans Month, a time for everyone to reflect on the experiences of our elders and the roles they have played in shaping our world.
In Little Tokyo, community groups organized by the Little Tokyo Service Center held a celebration for seniors in honor of AAPI Heritage Month and Older Americans Month. City Councilmember Jose Huizar capped the event held at Little Tokyo Towers in partnership with Little Tokyo Nutrition Services on May 22.
The celebration featured a mini-ukulele concert by Jason Arimoto of U-Space and group participation in qi gong, a healthy activity led by Jacqueline Rice, an instructor at the Far East Lounge.
In addition to promoting fun and wellness, the celebration also highlighted the need to support older adults to live in dignity, receive the respect they deserve, and make progress toward healthy life goals.
The group made banners with “Dignity,” “Respect,” and “Progress” written in English, Japanese and Korean for use in advocacy events, and called on Congress to reauthorize the Older Americans Act, which established and funds vital programs such as senior centers, nutrition, wellness activities, caregiver support, and other social services.
Yoomee Ha, a field deputy for the 34th Congressional District, expressed Rep. Xavier Becerra’s support for senior services.
Councilmember Huizar talked about his childhood connection to Little Tokyo and his time spent delivering local Japanese American newspapers. He also addressed the room full of seniors and their ongoing request for a crosswalk on Third Street in Little Tokyo, saying, We’re almost there” with securing funds.
From their immigration and wartime experiences to the passing on of culture and values, the Japanese American community is deeply indebted to the contributions of the elders who have gone before us. Although AAPI Heritage Month and Older Americans Month has passed, we can honor our seniors by learning about their lives, sharing activities, and joining them in advocacy.
Amy Phillips is director of senior services at the Little Tokyo Service Center.
Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo